A few months ago, a UCLA student named Alexandra Wallace made headlines for her rant on Youtube. The video, which was only a few minutes in length, is a glaring example of supreme ignorance underscored by unexpressed feelings of confusion about our society.
In the video, Wallace talks about how Asian parents need to teach their children to care for themselves. She complains about how Asian kids bring their families back with them to the dorms to do their laundry and how their families buy groceries for them. She complains that Asians are always on their cell phones in the library. As she mimics Chinese saying “Ching chong ting tong ling long," she mentions that they are probably calling to check on relatives to see if anybody was affected by the tsunami disaster.
The mistakes Wallace made in her rant are many. I will do my best to highlight the more important ones. It’s true that Asian kids in college often bring their families back to the dorms with them to do their laundry and will often buy groceries for them. However, what Wallace fails to realize is that this is an Asian parent’s way of showing love for their child. Helping them with something simple like folding laundry or buying them food is the way they express their love, because more often than not, in Asian families love is not expressed verbally but through action.
“Ching chong ting tong ling long” is not anything even remotely close to the Chinese language, or any other Asian language for that matter. It adds insult to injury that she confuses Chinese people with Japanese people. Asian people in America are actually not that offended if you can’t tell what specific Asian ethnicity we are. I know I am Chinese but people often think I am Vietnamese, Hmong, or Filipina. But to mimic Chinese and then assume that Chinese people are the ones affected by the tsunami when the tsunami affected Japan is a bit much.
The best responses I have seen to Wallace’s rant were by David So and Jimmy Wong. In David So’s Youtube video, he points out that the obvious ignorance of Wallace’s rant. He is quick to point out that Asians show their love for their children by doing things for them and chides Wallace, “Don’t be mad cuz nobody loves you!” He also mentions that Wallace’s assumption that we can’t do anything for ourselves is incorrect because we grow our food and can take apart a cow in ten minutes and put it back on a plate. He makes fun of Wallace’s statement that Americans are polite by saying the he knows Americans aren’t polite. “How do I know? You don’t even take off your shoes when you come into my house!”
Jimmy Wong simply makes a song out of the words that Wallace used to mimic the Chinese language. The best part is the chorus where he takes the words themselves and gives them a meaning, just to make fun of her.
Ching chong, it means I love you
Ling long, I really want you
Ting tong, I don't actually know what that means
Ching chong, it's never ending
Ling long, my head is spinning
Ting tong, still don't know what that means
Jimmy Wong’s song is a far better response than some of the death threats I have seen.
I’m not condemning Alexandra Wallace. Since she dropped out of UCLA, I think we can safely assume that Wallace has been ostracized by the UCLA community, many of her friends, and society at large. That alone is more punishment than any amount of violence that I can think of.
I do not think the proper response is violence. I hope and pray that Alexandra Wallace remains physically safe from harm. But I wonder how many people have actually taken the time to explore Wallace’s rant on Youtube, not to condemn her, but to explore the actual implications of her words.
Maybe what her video should have said is something like the following:
'My name is Alexandra Wallace and I’m a Poli Sci Major at UCLA. I was raised in an upscale community called Fair Oaks on the outskirts of Sacramento. Fair Oaks doesn’t have a lot of Asians and this is my first encounter with large numbers of Asian people. I’m confused. I don’t understand why Asian kids in my dorm have their families come help them with laundry. I’m not sure why they buy them groceries either. It really bothers me when people speak on the phone in the library. I wish I could understand what people are saying when they speak other languages.
This world that I’ve been thrust into is so different from how I was raised. I don’t really know how to interact or deal with people from other cultures. It makes me feel uneasy when I’m confronted by things I don’t understand. Please help me to knock down some of the walls that have been built around me. Please be understanding of the way that I was raised. I’m here at UCLA to learn but I’m encountering things that can’t be learned in a classroom or read in books. Someone please help me to figure this out.'
If Wallace had said something like that and posted it on Youtube, wouldn’t society have been a bit more forgiving of her ignorance? Perhaps the solution lies not in anger or in public condemnation but in an open dialogue where the sole purpose is to understand and educate in a safe place. Is it an exercise in futility to believe such a thing is possible?
I feel bad for Alexandra Wallace. I’m sure she knows she screwed up by posting her rant on Youtube because she has been criticized by people all over the world and forced to leave UCLA. Yet, I’m not sure anybody has actually taken the time to talk to her and to help her understand where her anger and her misconceptions about Asians are coming from. I actually don’t think anybody will ever take the time to talk to Wallace without hating on or judging her or that she will ever fully come to an understanding about Asian culture and why her statements on Youtube were hurtful. I sincerely hope that I’m wrong.
Jacqueline Cheung is an Elk Grove resident and the Executive Director of Go Jade Solutions.